UFC 187 takes place Saturday night from Las Vegas, headlined by a UFC light heavyweight title matchup between Daniel Cormier and Anthony Johnson. MMA's pound for pound best fighter Jon Jones was stripped of the title following an alleged hit and run incident, setting up this bout for the vacant championship. Cormier, a world class wrestler with a 15-1 MMA record, gets another shot at the gold after suffering his first career loss to Jones in his last fight. Johnson, a knockout artist, enters the bout on a nine bout undefeated streak. In the co-feature on one of the best UFC lineups of the year, UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman defends his title against challenger Vitor Belfort. The undefeated Weidman is coming off wins over Brazilian legends Anderson Silva and Lyoto Machida. He now fights another famed Brazilian fighter in Belfort, who has won his last three fights via knockout. The controversial Belfort is viewed by many as the poster boy for performance enhancing drugs in MMA, having failed drug tests twice and undergoing controversial testosterone replacement therapy (TRT). TRT was supposed to help Belfort compensate with dangerously low levels of testosterone, but off of TRT for this fight he tested at much higher levels of testosterone than Weidman, nearly a decade his junior.
UFC light heavyweight title: Anthony Johnson vs. Daniel Cormier
With Jon Jones stripped of his title, Johnson and Cormier will have the opportunity to capture UFC gold without dethroning the incomparable longtime champ. Amazingly, Johnson started his UFC career at 170 pounds, but now fights at 205 pounds and is one of the hardest hitters in that division. He also possesses high level wrestling that allows him to keep fights where he wants them. Cormier is a grinder, a world class wrestler with really good boxing and strong clinch work. He is also one of the sport's most popular fighters with a gregarious personality.
Round 1. Johnson takes an accidental eye poke early while throwing a heavy leg kick. Johnson drops Cormier with a punch. He moves forward throwing wild punches but Cormier has his senses and grabs Johnson's back and looks to pull Johnson down. Cormier slams Johnson down but Johnson stands right back up. Cormier continues to apply pressure and takes Johnson down. Johnson again immediately moves back up. They separate and Johnson throws two big head kicks. One connects pretty well and Cormier looks for a takedown. Johnson blocks that with ease. Cormier clinches again and looks for a takedown. He presses Johnson by the cage and lands a couple solid punches at the close. 10-9 Johnson.
Round 2. The fighters start out throwing huge power shots. Each man lands high kicks as well as big punches. A head kick by Johnson was likely the best of the punch. Cormier clinches, picks Johnson up, walks him towards the center of the cage, and slams him down. Cormier lands some punches and looks for a kimura submission. He applies pressure to the hold while trying to move his leg out of half guard to increase his leverage. Cormier can't get it and lets it go. Cormier continues working from top position, looking to pass into side control. Cormier drops some elbows and cuts Johnson open. He moves into side control at the end. 10-8 Cormier.
Round 3. Johnson goes for a takedown to start the third round. He gets Cormier down but Cormier gets back up and looks for a takedown of his own. Johnson looks tired and Cormier is controlling Johnson's body and landing punches by the cage. Cormier applies a rear naked choke and Johnson is forced to submit.
Winner: Daniel Cormier, submission, round 3.
UFC Middleweight Title: Chris Weidman vs. Vitor Belfort
Weidman, 12-0, is looking to defend his title for the third time. He comes from an excellent wrestling background. He added dangerous submissions and then great striking, making him a well rounded and complete fighter. Belfort has always been principally a striker, with some of the best hands in the history of the sport. But at this point, few want to talk about much else besides allegations of PED use when it comes to Belfort.
Round 1. Weidman throws a head kick to start the fight. Belfort blocks it. The Brazilian fans in attendance begin to chant for their fighter. Weidman goes for a takedown but it is blocked. Belfort rocks Weidman with punches and looks to finish by the cage. He lands huge punches and elbows. He has Weidman in huge trouble but Weidman hangs in. Weidman gets a much needed takedown. Weidman is bleeding badly but is landing punches from the top and connecting well. Weidman moves into mount and lands big punches from that position. Belfort is just covering up and is getting hammered with shots. Belfort can't defend himself adequately and Herb Dean stops the fight. That was a tremendous show of heart from Weidman, who was in huge trouble but recovered and got a big come from behind win in emphatic fashion.
Winner: Chris Weidman, TKO, round 1.
Justin Scoggins vs. Josh Sampo
Scoggins entered the UFC a highly regarded undefeated prospect but needs a win here after consecutive losses to Dustin Ortiz and John Moraga. Sampo is a submission specialist also coming off two consecutive losses.
Round 1. Scoggins establishes his kicks early, throwing spinning back kicks, front kicks and leg kicks in quick order. Sampo moves in with a few straight punches, some of his only offense in the early going. Scoggins continues to work his kicks while also throwing some punches to the head and body. Scoggins easily stuffs a takedown attempt. Sampo lands a looping punch to the jaw but he is answered with a few stiff kicks to the body. Scoggins lands a hard knee late. The first round was total one way traffic. Sampo appears to have no answers for Scoggins. 10-9 Scoggins.
Round 2. Scoggins drops Sampo with a hook kick early in the round. Sampo recovers and gets back to his feet. Scoggins follows with another hard spinning back kick to the body. Sampo lands a solid punch and clinches, but Scoggins quickly wiggles his way out of the clinch and returns to range where he has a massive advantage. Scoggins lands a front kick moments later. Sampo clinches and finally gets a takedown. However, Scoggins is able to scramble back up to his feet shortly thereafter. Sampo does land a nice 2 punch combination to the head, his best shots of the round. Sampo follows with a leg kick and the round ends. 10-9 Scoggins.
Round 3. Scoggins goes back to work with his kicks, attacking both the body and head. Sampo's corner is trying to sell their fighter on the idea that Scoggins is gassed, but that certainly doesn't appear to be the case. As Scoggins lands a kick halfway through the round, Sampo uses a trip takedown. Sampo gets top position inside Scoggins' guard. Sampo lands some punches but Scoggins does a good job neutralizing him with the guard. He then stands back up with a minute left. The fighters trade body kicks. Scoggins gets a takedown late but Sampo gets up to his feet to conclude the fight. 10-9 Scoggins.
Winner: Justin Scoggins, unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).
Islam Makhachev vs. Leo Kuntz
This fight pits two debuting UFC fighters with gaudy records on smaller shows. Makhachev is 11-0 with a sambo background and trains with top lightweight contender Khabib Nurmagomedov. Leo Kuntz is 17-1-1, principally on the North Dakota scene.
Round 1. Makhachev lands an overhand punch at the start and Kuntz answers with a straight right punch. Makhachev clinches but Kuntz circles out and away from the cage. Makhachev uses a beautiful throw to take Kuntz to the mat and immediately takes Kuntz's back. Makhachev then looks to close the show with a rear naked choke. However, Kuntz slickly slips out and returns to his feet. Kuntz lands a pair of kicks and a straight punch. Makhachev attacks aggressively with a series of uppercuts and then takes Kuntz down. Makhachev 10-9.
Round 2. Kuntz opens aggressively with some kicks but is answered with a few hard punches to the head that force him to be more conservative. Makhachev gets a takedown and again very quickly gets Kuntz's back. Makhachev grabs a body triangle and lands some punches to the head to set up a rear naked choke. He gets it sunk in and Kuntz is forced to tap.
Winner: Islam Makhachev, submission, round 2.
Mike Pyle vs. Colby Covington
Pyle is one of the oldest fighters still competing at a high level. The 39-year-old veteran has excellent submissions and an underrated standup game, having fought many of the sport's toughest competitors for over a decade. Two losses in his last three have set back his career. Covington is an undefeated prospect who trains with American Top Team. His forte has been his ground game.
Round 1. Covington goes for a takedown early, pressing Pyle against the cage. After a break for an accidental low blow, Covington moves back into close range by throwing some punches. He gets caught with a powerful counterpunch by Pyle in the process but still secures the clinch. Pyle attacks with a kimura lock but Covington avoids danger and gets a takedown. Covington lands some punches while Kyle elevates his hips and looks to set up a triangle or armbar submission from the bottom. 10-9 Covington.
Round 2. Covington again looks for the takedown but Pyle defends well. Covington lands some solid punches and grabs the clinch again. Pyle looks for the kimura but Covington follows through with the takedown and ends in beneficial side control position on the ground. Pyle attempts to grab an armbar but can't get it. Pyle does secure full guard, however. Covington lands some punches from the top while Pyle has to settle for mostly holding on. Finally, referee Herb Dean stands them up. 10-9 Covington.
Round 3. Pyle attacks with a flying knee to the head. A scramble ensues where Pyle looks for a guillotine choke but he can't get it and Covington once again ends up on the top on the ground. Covington conservatively lands punches from the top. Pyle uses a kimura to reverse position, taking top position and full mount. He has a minute left to get a finish. Covington rolls over and Pyle attempts to grab a rear naked choke. He has the choke but doesn't have the body secured and Covington gets out back into top position. 10-9 Covington.
Winner: Colby Covington, unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 30-27).
Uriah Hall vs. Rafael Natal
Hall burst onto the scene with an extremely impressive series of performances on the Ultimate Fighter. He followed that by losing his first two UFC fights, but rebounded to win three in a row. He is a powerful knockout striker. Natal is a ground fighter with only 1 finish in 12 UFC fights.
Round 1. Hall takes a low blow at the start of the fight. He chases down Natal, throwing kicks from the outside. Eventually he stops pursuing and lets Natal come to him. Natal obliges with a hook right to the chin. Natal lands a few leg kicks of his own. Hall continues to throw his kicks and they come with much more power than Natal's. Natal goes for a takedown late. He briefly gets Hall down but Hall pops up and the round ends. 10-9 Hall.
Round 2. Hall throws a few jabs that snap back Natal's head. Natal switches levels and scores a nice takedown a minute into the round. Hall works his way over to the cage and then stands back up. After some standup, Hall clinches and looks for a takedown. He slams Natal down emphatically but Natal gets right back up. Hall then uses a suplex and pulls Natal back down. Close round. Natal had more control time but Hall did more damage. 10-9 Hall.
Round 3. Hall throws a few low kicks and then a wheel kick high. Hall connects with a big knee to the body. Hall lands a high kick and avoids a takedown attempt. Natal clinches and looks for a takedown but Hall fights it off. 10-9 Hall.
Winner: Rafael Natal, split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28).
Just an awful decision from the judges.
Josh Burkman vs. Dong Hyun Kim
Burkman, who debuted in the UFC in 2005, is an excellent athlete who is particularly dangerous early in fights. Kim, 19-3-1 (1 NC), is a top welterweight contender with wins over the likes of John Hathaway, Erick Silva, Nate Diaz, T.J. Grant and Matt Brown. He is coming off a loss to Tyron Woodley and is looking to work his way back into the welterweight title picture.
Round 1. Kim moves in wildly as he has in recent fights, but he then grabs a clinch and looks to take Burkman to the ground. Burkman reverses and looks for the takedown himself. The fighters struggle to avoid ending up on the mat in a disadvantageous position. Kim leaps up onto Burkman's back and has his hooks in from the standing position. He looks to secure a standing rear naked choke ala Matt Hughes/Frank Trigg. Kim continues to control Burkman's back as the round ends. 10-9 Kim.
Round 2. Burkman looks for a takedown. Kim grabs the crucifix position and lands a series of punches to the head of Burkman. Burkman is stuck and Kim just lands these light punches for most of the round before Burkman finally separates at the end. 10-9 Kim.
Round 3. Burkman attacks aggressively. He stuns Kim with some big punches and a knee. Kim is in huge trouble but Burkman backs off and gives Kim time to recover. Burkman must have been just too tired because there is no way he couldn't have known that Kim was in huge trouble. Kim takes advantage of Burkman's mistake by scoring a takedown. He then grabs an arm triangle choke and finishes Burkman.
Winner: Dong Hyun Kim, submission, round 3.
John Dodson vs. Zach Makovsky
Dodson is likely to be the next challenger for UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson if he wins this bout. He is extremely quick with good power for a 125 pounder and an exuberant personality. He has won 7 of his last 8 fights. Makovsky, the former Bellator star, has won 5 of 6 in his own right, all via decision.
Round 1. Dodson lands the first big shot of the fight, a left hook to the chin of Makovsky a minute in. Makovsky looks for a takedown but Dodson defends well. Not a lot is happening as they fight at distance with neither fighter throwing a lot. 10-9 Dodson.
Round 2. Dodson throws a leg kick which Makovsky catches and looks to use to score a takedown. Dodson backs away. Makovsky lands a punch and a leg kick. Dodson uses a takedown on Makovsky late. Makovsky attacks with a leg lock but can't come close and Dodson helps Makovsky back to his feet to close the round. Close round. 10-9 Dodson.
Round 3. Makovsky lands a nice hook early. The fighters exchange leg kicks. The competitors, who have trained together in the past, clearly have a lot of respect for each other and the fight has resembled a sparring session for significant periods. Dodson lands a couple of nice knees and gets a brief takedown. Makovsky is immediately up before they have time to work on the ground. The crowd boos at the conclusion of the fight. 10-9 Dodson, but that could go either way.
Winner: John Dodson, unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28).
Joseph Benavidez vs. John Moraga
Benavidez has established himself as the second best fighter in the flyweight division but unfortunately has lost to champion Demetrious Johnson twice. Moraga is one of the top flyweight contenders in his own right and won his last two fights via submission.
Round 1. The fight starts at a quick pace and Benavidez drops Moraga with a shot. Benavidez follows to the ground and controls Moraga's neck from the top. Benavidez moves into side control but Moraga powers back up to his feet. On the feet, Benavidez takes Moraga back down. Moraga stands up again, however. They clinch by the cage, where Moraga looks for a takedown of his own. Moraga uses a nice throw but Benavidez gets back up immediately and they scramble for position. 10-9 Benavidez.
Round 2. They exchange leg kicks and Benavidez fires in some additional punches. Moraga, usually more active in the standup, has been forced to lower his output out of respect for Benavidez. However, Moraga does begin to open up more as the round progresses. He throws some high kicks and increases his punch output as well. Benavidez responds by scoring a takedown. Moraga is badly bleeding, perhaps from an accidental headbutt. Benavidez works his way into side control position and drops down elbows. 10-9 Benavidez.
Round 3. Moraga lands a couple of hard punches early and then opens up with more big punches. Benavidez counters with some solid shots of his own and they're both landing some of the best shots of the fight here in the third round. Benavidez gets a takedown that looks really easy with the way Moraga tumbles to the ground. Benavidez immediately moves into side control but Moraga works his way into full guard. Benavidez is fine with that and lands punches from inside Moraga's guard. 10-9 Benavidez.
Winner: Joseph Benavidez, unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).
Travis Browne vs. Andrei Arlovski
This is an important fight for the heavyweight title picture. Browne is one of the top contenders, a tall and rangy fighter with big knockout power. Arlovski, the former UFC heavyweight champion, has won 4 fights in a row and is a knockout striker himself. These two are friends and have trained together in the past but are putting that aside in attempting to move up the rankings.
Round 1. Browne looks to establish his jab early. Arlovski catches Browne with a counterpunch and looks to finish Browne by the cage with a series of heavy punches. Browne is forced to cover up and he is able to survive. Arlovski continues to look for the big finishing shot. Browne lands a few hard shots but Arlovski stuns him again with a punch and looks to finish. Arlovski nails Browne with a serious right hand up the middle and Browne looks like he could go at any moment. Browne recovers to some degree and throws a few leg kicks. But he's having real trouble avoiding Arlovski's punches. Arlovski drops Browne with a right hand and again looks to finish. As Arlovski is trying to finish, Browne rocks Arlovski with a huge punch and he looks to finish. Then Arlovski answers with a counter and he is back in control and looking to finish. This is madness. Arlovski stuns Browne with a big punch and the referee stops the fight with 30 seconds left. That was one of the wildest fights in UFC history.
Winner: Andrei Arlovski, TKO, round 1.
Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone vs. John Makdessi
Cerrone is one of the most popular fighters in the lightweight division and is a top contender with seven consecutive wins. He was originally supposed to fight Khabib Nurmagomedov on this card but an injury forced John Makdessi to step in on short notice. It's a fun style matchup as both Cerrone and Makdessi are explosive offensive fighters with dynamic striking.
Round 1. The fight starts at a fast pace. Cerrone like usual is active with kicks and throws a couple of head kicks with bad intentions. Makdessi is active in his own right, looking to capitalize with punches up the middle as Cerrone winds up. Each man is landing with a lot of shots and Cerrone has been forced to fight more conservatively due to Makdessi's success with punches. Good, close round. 10-9 Cerrone.
Round 2. Cerrone opens with more in the way of kicks, just like in the first. He lands a few nice kicks to the leg and then goes high. He follows with a knee and then a series of punches to the head of Makdessi. That flurry was Cerrone's best offensive series of the contest. After Makdessi seemed to even things up in the second half of the first round, Cerrone has made some adjustments and taken back over in the second. Cerrone continues to attack the leg and then goes high with a kick. Makdessi calls for time but it goes without saying that there are no timeouts in MMA and the referee stops the contest. Makdessi's jaw was broken, causing that reaction.
Winner: Donald Cerrone, TKO, round 2.